Red and white striped bags and an arch of yellow balloons at its entrance gave the illusion that carnival goers were entering a world full of fun, adventure and popcorn. Guests were then greeted by the buttery smell of those popped kernels while lining up to buy wristbands and raffle tickets.
It was 4:30 p.m. on Friday and the 10th annual Browns Valley Elementary School Carnival was just beginning. It was relief that it went on at all, said Sandra Oliva, Browns Valley Family Club carnival chairperson.
Oliva said that she was getting a stream of calls and emails from parents and community members all day asking about the status of the carnival. When the decision was made that the carnival was a go, it was announced over the school loudspeaker causing students to scream with excitement, she said.
“It was really cool to hear that the kids screamed when it was (announced),” she said. “It made me feel good.” This was Oliva’s fourth year planning the carnival – a responsibility that began at the start of the schoolyear. She estimated that it took her about 100 hours of planning as well as about 125 volunteers, including teachers, parents and high school students.
“The primary goal of this event is community building,” Oliva said. Fundraising is secondary, she said. The event usually raises between $5,000 and $7,000 for the parent club, which helps pay for things like assemblies, field trips, classroom supplies and other expenses.
There are a few standards that are at the carnival every year including the cake walk, face painting and inflatable bounce houses, which are all very popular with the students, but Oliva also tries to add some new things every year.
“I try to add a new game every year so that there’s variety,” she said. This year there was a caricature artist and a fish bowl toss.
Although many of the booths and games had lines throughout the evening, the line for face painting seemed to be never-ending. The artists didn’t only do the typical designs, though – they took special requests.
Third grader Liam Daley, 9, was having his face painted to look like Harry Potter. With a lightning bolt on his forehead and painted on glasses, Liam said he didn’t have a favorite activity at the carnival. “It’s all good,” he said.
“It’s always fun,” said Will Daley, Liam’s father. “Every year it gets bigger. There are twice as many bounce houses this year,” he said. Daley said he was surprised that the carnival was happening despite the possible rain, but he was happy that it did. “The kids love it,” he said. “They have a great time.”
And it was true. Children were screaming with delight everywhere you turned – while getting their faces painted, eating cotton candy, winning a stuffed animal or even winning a lollipop.
“We’ve been here since kindergarten and we always come,” said Vivian Barrett, 9. Vivian and her friends, all in fourth grade, were thoroughly enjoying dressing up in colorful sunglasses and funny hats at the photo booth. Each moment seemed amazing, from picking out wacky signs to hold to striking funny poses to watching as their photographs were printed and shared with each other.
“I love being at the carnival,” Vivian said.
“It’s awesome,” said her friend Mila Cornell, 9. “Super-duper fun.”